30 Years of MIT Media Lab

Brand Identity

The legendary research institution celebrates three decades with a special symposium and a custom brew.

When MIT Media Lab celebrated its 30th anniversary, the unconventional research institution held a two-day symposium at the Eero Saarinen-designed Kresge Auditorium. The event drew a guest list of distinguished speakers and attendees, including former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith, Atari founder Nolan Bushnell, and entrepreneurial icon Martha Stewart. Pentagram designed graphics for the event, which spun off of their previously designed identity for the MIT Media Lab.

Since its inception in 1980, the MIT Media Lab has promoted a unique, “antidisciplinary” culture of innovation and unconventional research in technology. The event embodied this unorthodox approach with the theme, “Mind, Magic, and Mischief,” and featured some of the today’s most renowned writers, inventors, entrepreneurs, and even magicians—the event was emceed by Penn and Teller—on the lineup.

For the identity, the team designed a bold white-on-black “30” set in the font Neue Haas Grotesk, which was applied to a variety of materials, merchandise, and environmental graphics for the celebration. In the auditorium, an eight-foot tall number 30 commanded the stage while digital screens displayed the design throughout the building. Lunch for attendees was served in custom-designed meal boxes, stamped with the number 30 in black foil.

For the after-party, the bar space was divided into three sections which each represented one of three decades of the Media Lab’s illustrious operation. Each section was designated by a numerical span of years, e.g. “94-04,” applied to the pylons and counters in the event space.

A variety of collaborative merchandise was made specially for the event as well. Little Bits, a system of magnetic electronic building blocks created by Media Lab alum Ayah Bdeir, offered a “Gizmos & Gadgets” kit in a box that spelled out the number thirty in binary code. The designers also worked with the engineered menswear company Ministry of Supply to create an exclusive shirt for the event. Custom watches and tote bags featuring the identity were designed as well.

The standout product, however, was in the custom beer made for the event by Aeronaut Brewing Company. The beer, called “Weisner,” was dedicated to the late Jerome Weisner, chairman of John F. Kennedy’s Science Advisory Committee and co-founder of the MIT Media Lab alongside Professor Nicholas Negroponte. The Hefeweizen beer came in cans designed with the name Weisner etched 30 times at different sizes, mimicking spacecraft contrails.

New York
Michael Bierut
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